Erskine College was founded by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1839. Prior to this time the church had established in Due West, S.C., an academy for men in 1835. This academy became Erskine College, the first four-year church-related college in South Carolina.
By the time of the Civil War, Erskine had become one of the thriving colleges of the region with more than 100 students enrolled. Following the war, loyal supporters rebuilt the endowment wiped out by the conflict. They also financed construction of the Erskine Building and established Chairs in Chemistry and English Literature under widely respected professors.
These professors helped Erskine establish a reputation for academic excellence as the college moved from the classical to liberal arts curriculum.
Also enhancing this reputation were the Erskine literary societies, as old as the college, which trained championship debaters and supplemented speech and literary training. The large auditorium constructed in 1892 brought renowned speakers to Erskine and continued Erskine’s role as a cultural and educational center of the South Carolina Piedmont.
Erskine admitted women in 1894 and became officially coeducational in 1899. Due West Female College, founded in 1859 by Associate Reformed Presbyterian ministers and laymen, came under the control of the ARP Church in 1904 and merged with Erskine College in 1927.
The planned merger had paved the way for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges in 1925, and the combined institution continued to provide a quality education and produce distinguished graduates over the next three decades, despite the setbacks of the Great Depression, World War II, and the dearth of students entering higher education in the early 1950s.